Harnessing technology to stay in pole position
Vice President, Commercial, Cisco Asia Pacific & Japan
Technology, Thought Leadership, Digitization, Manufacturing
Today, Singapore is a hotbed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), thanks to its growing population of ambitious, entrepreneurial people, surge in mobile usage and the conducive environment provided by the government. Against this positive backdrop however, is the rise of competition.
SMEs today compete not only with large corporates and local rivals, but also with lower-priced competitors in emerging countries. In addition, SMEs must navigate economic headwinds and deal with the rising cost of operations. In the face of external competition, it would appear to an SME that its immediate focus is to get ahead in the market. However, they often neglect a common blind spot: getting through internal, day-to-day challenges.
SMEs do not have the same resources or the same backing as a large corporate, and as such, face problems related to productivity and communication. Commonly faced issues include having small IT teams, the lack of workforce mobility, having multiple providers across multiple sites, and Internet connection that is not optimised.
Technology has the power to transform the operations of SMEs by ensuring that employees are working safely and efficiently, so they can focus on bigger things such as becoming the next market leaders or niche players.
By spreading IT investments across technologies that are deemed necessary to run the day-to-day operations will help SMEs to sharpen their competitive edge. When implementing technologies, these four areas remain paramount:
Recent episodes of ransomware attacks, and the negative effect of massive data loss, have also increased SMEs' concerns of securing their IT networks and data. More SMEs also handle growing volumes of data that include confidential customer data, transaction records and intellectual property. It is no wonder that IT security is a top focus area for SMEs.
Security is the foundation of building trust to customers. It is essential to select the right security controls to stop more threats, detect them earlier, act on them faster, and gain more insights. The security strategy should also be a layered one - a combination of endpoint, cloud and network security tools.
Fostering a mobile and collaborative workforce
More SMEs allow employees flexible work arrangements, and as they expand across national borders, many will find communication with colleagues a greater challenge. Many SMEs also opt to work with freelancer professionals to harness their niche skills. As such, IT must increasingly support a mobile work culture.
By investing in cloud and collaboration solutions, SMEs can work across companies' boundaries with their customers, partners and freelancers, creating a better experience as working together becomes a simple, easy and intuitive experience.
Changing customer expectations and widely available networks in Singapore mean that customers and partners expect to always be connected. As such, managing the infrastructure and network becomes a mind-boggling exercise and an enormous responsibility for SMEs. When you add the lack of IT staff to the mix, it is a nightmare for users when the Internet connection does not work.
SMEs need a network that is secure and reliable. IT should be able to easily provision secure and reliable access for users to connect wirelessly to the corporate network, giving them maximum mobility. At the same time, IT should retain control and visibility to enforce policies and monitor device activities. As SMEs look to scale their business, having a smart network infrastructure will help them gain visibility into users, devices, and others to provide a better experience and protect the business from threats.
Strong computer power
Enterprises are jumping on the digitalisation bandwagon, and SMEs are no exception. This also means there are expectations for IT infrastructure to have 24/7 availability. This, coupled with IDC findings that data created and copied every year will reach 180 zettabytes in 2025, mean that SMEs could be faced with the inability to manage data.
Intuitive, cloud-powered management platforms enable SMEs to work wherever they are. The platform must also be able to provide actionable intelligence based on insights gained from analytics and best practices to enable fast, proactive operations. This will also empower the business to respond quickly to change.
In essence, SMEs must stay ahead of latest technologies and continuously invest in solutions that enable the business to transform and respond to a changing and increasingly competitive market.
Resource constraints can be overcome by looking for products that are easy to deploy and to integrate into legacy platforms, self-reporting and monitoring capabilities, as well as built-in security to networks and data, to provide the peace of mind. When selecting a vendor, SMEs should partner a firm that is not simply a technology supplier, but one that understands the unique needs of its business and industry.
By first relooking their own internal challenges and resolving them through the deployment of technologies, SMEs will realise that they can gain a greater competitive edge in markets. After all, as Sun Tzu once said: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."